Theoretical task: The reproductive system Year 1: Research the human reproductive system, either male or female. If studying female anatomy and physiology, choose either a) age 15-45 or b)45 +. Consider which herbs can be useful during your chosen age group looking at (i) herbs for fertility and PMS or (ii) menopause. Consider which herbs can be used across all age groups.
Female Reproductive System Produces eggs (ova) Secretes sex hormones Receives the male spermatazoa during Protects and nourishes the fertilized egg until it is fully developed Delivers fetus through birth canal Provides nourishment to the baby through milk secreted by mammary glands in the breast.
Menopause is the physiological cessation of menstrual cycles associated with advancing age. Menopause is sometimes referred to as "the change of life" or climacteric. Menopause occurs as the ovaries stop producing estrogen, causing the reproductive system to gradually shut down. As the body adapts to the changing levels of natural hormones, vasomotor symptoms such as hot flashes and palpitations, psychological symptoms such as increased depression, anxiety, irritability, mood swings and lack of concentration, and atrophic symptoms such as vaginal dryness and urgency of urination appear. Together with these symptoms, the woman may also have increasingly scanty and erratic menstrual periods. Technically, menopause refers to the cessation of menses; the gradual process through which this occurs, which typically takes a year but may last as little as six months or more than five years, is known as climacteric. A natural or physiological menopause is that which occurs as a part of a woman's normal aging process. However, menopause can be surgically induced by such procedures as hysterectomy. The average onset of menopause is 50.5 years, but some women enter menopause at a younger age, especially if they have suffered from cancer or another serious illness and undergone chemotherapy. Premature menopause is defined as menopause occurring before the age of 40, and occurs in 1% of women. Other causes of premature menopause include autoimmune disorders, thyroid disease, and diabetes mellitus. Premature menopause is diagnosed by measuring the levels of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). The levels of these hormones will be higher if menopause has occurred. Rates of premature menopause have been found to be significantly higher in both fraternal and identical twins; approximately 5% of twins reach menopause before the age of 40. The reasons for this are not completely understood. Post-menopausal women are at increased risk of osteoporosis.
Night sweats - how to help yourself
There are a number of factors that can make the problem of night sweats worse:
It is obvious that night sweats are made worse in a warm bedroom. Turn off the central heating, open the window and bring out the lighter duvet
Night sweats can be triggered by sudden changes in temperature
Avoid hot drinks, caffeine and red wine at night
Avoid chocolate, refined or spicy foods
Avoid becoming dehydrated by drinking plenty of water
Smoking can make night sweats worse
Emotional upset and stress increases adrenaline levels, making your sweat glands work harder
Using an extract of sage such as Sage tablets can provide relief from excessive sweating and night sweats
Perimenopause refers to the time preceding menopause, during which the production of hormones such as estrogen and progesterone diminish and become more irregular. During this period fertility diminishes. Menopause is arbitrarily defined as a minimum of twelve months without menstruation. Perimenopause can begin as early as age 35, although it usually begins much later. It can last for a few months or for several years. The duration of perimenopause cannot be predicted in advance.
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) It is common for women to experience some discomfort in the days leading up to their periods. PMS usually is at its worst the seven days before a period starts and can continue through the end of the period. PMS includes both physical and emotional symptoms: acne, bloating, fatigue, backaches, sore breasts, headaches, constipation, diarrhea, food cravings, depression, irritability, difficulty concentrating or handling stress.
Recommended Herbs For Infertility
Red Clover Blossom,is a most useful herb in transforming infertility and problems with endometriosis. This herb is very valuable to the uterus due to it's high vitamin and protein content. It is also high in calcium and magnesium which relax the nervous system and help promote fertility.
Flaxseed Oil,has wonderful benefits for men and women trying to conceive. Flax Seed Oil contains omega-6 and omega-9 essential fatty acids, B vitamins, potassium, lecithin, magnesium, fibre, protein, zinc and is considered to be nature's richest source of omega-3 fatty acids. Nearly every system in the body can benefit from flax seed oil's natural properties including the reproductive system. For women, it help stabilize a woman's estrogen-progesterone, improve uterine function and thus treat fertility problems. Flaxseed oil is a great herbal supplement to consider taking when trying to promote fertility.
Dong Quai,is extremely popular with women in Asian societies. It has been used as a health tonic for many generations. In particular, dong quai has been used for the health of the reproductive system in females by regulating menstrual cycles and improving the overall health of the uterus. Women with endometriosis find significant relief of their pain when taking dong quai, especially when mixed with the herb chasteberry, black cohosh or ginseng.
Chasteberry, also well known as Vitex is a very popular fertility herb made popular by the Europeans. Chasteberry is often used to regulate hormonal imbalances and can be especially beneficial when dealing with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOC). If you are dealing with irregular menstrual cycles, acne, excess hair growth or weight gain in addition to infertility, this herb for infertility is recommended to help regulate ovulation and overall hormonal balance.
Red Raspberry Leaf has a highly nutritive ingredient which aids in its ability to tone the uterus and muscles of the pelvic region. Red Raspberry is a powerful fertility-promoting herb, especially when used in combination with Peppermint which has the added benefit of serving as a sexual stimulant!
Fennel ,works as an aphrodisiac for women. The key to its reputation as an aphrodisiac lies in the fact that the plant contains compounds that are similar to the female hormone estrogen. This estrogen-like substance (phytoestrogen) is know to boost the female libido, alleviate several types of gynaecological disorders, encourage menstruation for women suffering irregular periods and help PMS-related symptoms. Besides working to enhance a your libido, fennel is packed with valuable nutrients essential for building up immunity and the proper functioning of all systems of the body including the sex organs.
In addition to the herbs mentioned above, Nettle Leaves, False Unicorn Root, Green Tea, Black Cohosh, Evening Primrose Oil and Ginseng are herbs also used for infertility issues.
Practical Task: Preserving your herbs Now is the time to start thinking about what you may need both for the coming summer and winter. Which conditions may you need to treat? What would be good to make just for the fun of it? Which herbs to you need to dry, which oils should you be making, which flower waters, tinctures or vinegars can you make fresh now?
Your herbal ally Continue with your tasks as set out last month.
Seasonal task Make a dogrose petal and leaf vinegar and/or elixir. Gather rose petals to dry and to make tincture. Make as many different elderflower products as you can. (eg dried, fritters, double infused oil, cordial, water, tincture, elixir, honey, vinegar and champagne!)
Observational task Notice which plants around you are flowering. Choose somewhere with a large patch of flowers e.g. bush/tree etc. Count how many different insects spend time with the flowers. Identify as many different species of bees as you can. How do they gather the nectar and pollen? Where do they enter the flower?